England coach kicking himself after loss to Wales

CARDIFF • After England's kicking had destroyed France on Feb 10, Eddie Jones said he expected teams in the Six Nations rugby tournament to adjust their defending to deal with it.

However, the England head coach probably did not think the modification would occur so quickly that the approach was virtually nullified in their next game.

So, instead of chalking up a third successive convincing Six Nations victory on Saturday, England were beaten 21-13 by a Wales team, who had done little of note in their first two games, but are now looking greedily at their own Grand Slam.

Warren Gatland's players did their homework for sure and had the added benefit of British and Irish Lion Liam Williams at fullback, whereas France thought that they could get away with a non-specialist in the position.

As a result, something that worked so well at Twickenham, brought little joy in Cardiff.

The Welsh back three were confident under the rain of high kicks and the home team's positional discipline meant there was never as much space for England to thread the grubbers that had produced so many tries in their previous game.

"They beat us in the air," Jones admitted, before adding that his team would "learn from this".

It is by no means "back to the drawing board" for Jones as the visitors were powerful and impressive in many areas of the game.

But the Australian will waste little time in reminding his players that if Plan A is not working, it is probably a good idea to try Plan B - assuming there is one.

"What undid England was a lack of accuracy and a touch of tactical inertia," Lawrence Dallaglio wrote in the Times of London yesterday.

The former England captain said by the time England woke up to the fact that Wales had changed their approach, it was too late - which will provide more "learnings" for Jones and his players this week as they prepare for their final two games against Italy and Scotland.

Victories in those two Twickenham encounters will still give England a fighting chance of winning the title, but they now need Wales to slip up in one of their last two against Scotland and Ireland.

The bigger picture for Jones, with an eye on the Sept 20-Nov 2 World Cup, is to ensure that England are more tactically nimble as their opponents in Japan will be studying the tapes of Saturday's game a lot more closely now.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2019, with the headline 'England coach kicking himself after loss to Wales'. Print Edition | Subscribe